Having visited 24 of the 63 U.S. national parks, I am aware of how gratifying it can be to spend time in the great outdoors, whether it be with my children or on extended excursions with friends. Following all these excursions, I am now all too aware of some of the difficulties involved in organizing outdoor activities, such as locating the finest trailheads or the closest public restrooms.
Four new changes are coming to Google Maps this month for iOS and Android to make it easier for you to obtain all the information you want before visiting a national park. With these updates, everything from finding your way around a park to discovering things to do when you’re there will feel like, well, a walk in the park.
See the top features in a park instantly
Now you can quickly identify the most popular places in a park—like attractions, campgrounds, visitor centres, and trailheads — with help from the Maps community.
Say you’re interested in visiting Yellowstone National Park. Search for the park and see photo highlights for key attractions, like Old Faithful. Tap on any of the photos to get even more details — like videos and reviews — from people who have been there before, so you can decide whether to add it to your itinerary and plan a trip that rocks.
See the popular routes in Maps from start to finish.
Trails within parks are now easier to discover. When you search for a trail, we’ll highlight its entire route on the map, instead of just a pin, so you can easily identify where it starts and ends and what the route looks like. You’ll see reviews and photos from the Google Maps community — like Colorado-based Local Guide Jeremy, a published nature photographer who has visited more than 30 US national parks! And we’ll surface helpful details from the Maps community like what type of trail it is, its difficulty, and whether it’s better for running, walking, or cycling.
Go about with more thorough instructions
Once you’ve scoped out the places you want to see and the trails you want to conquer in the park, Maps will help get you there with more precise directions. Later this month, you’ll see park entrances highlighted right on the map, and now when you request walking or cycling directions to a particular trail, Maps will direct you right to the trailhead.
Bring offline maps to any park you intend to visit
Once you’re on the go, it’s hard to know if you’ll have reliable cell coverage in national parks. We’ve got you covered with a new way to download an offline map for a park. Just tap the ‘download’ button on the park’s Google Maps listing to download it for offline use. This way you can easily find your way around without internet access or cellular data. The download button will appear on park listings later this month.
Ready to plan your trip? Here are the top-rated national parks in the U.S., according to Google Maps data:
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
- Kenai Fjords National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Acadia National Park
- Badlands National Park
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park
- Grand Teton National Park
These features are coming to all U.S. national parks this April, and they’ll roll out to parks around the world in the coming months. Whether you’re making your list of must-see sights or trying to find the best trail for running — Google Maps has all the information you need in one place so you can save time planning and spend it exploring. See you out there!